Acting Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Thomas Cook is reminding Pennsylvanians to change the batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors while changing their clocks for this weekend’s “spring forward” time change.
“Unfortunately, Pennsylvania has gotten off to a bad start of the year concerning fatal fires, we’ve seen far too many,” said Cook. “When your family’s safety is threatened by a fire, you need the early warning provided by a smoke alarm so you can safely egress the home before it’s too late. Test your smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries regularly. Our state routinely ranks among the nation’s highest in terms of fatal house fires, and they disproportionately affect older adults.”
Cook said discharged or missing batteries are the most common cause of a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector malfunction. When functioning, smoke alarms can decrease the risk of dying in a home fire by as much as half. From the moment an alarm sounds, occupants may have as few as two minutes to safely exit the building.
Often called “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can incapacitate victims before they are aware of exposure. Sources can include wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, gas fireplaces, appliances, grills, generators and motor vehicles.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for the flu and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, disorientation and fatigue.
Newer models of smoke alarms marketed as having long-lasting batteries may not need to have their batteries replaced, but thousands of homeowners still use models that use standard batteries that must be replaced regularly. No matter what type of smoke alarms are used in a home, all units should be tested monthly, including devices that are hard-wired to a home’s electrical system.
“Less well known is the importance of discussing safety planning with your family, both immediate and extended,” said Cook. “Knowing two ways to escape each room if necessary, having a designated meeting place, and physically practicing the plan can make a difference during a house fire. This is especially important with aged relatives who may have mobility issues.”
Homeowners unsure of how to maintain or install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms can call their local fire service for advice.